Pioneer photographer Henry Twidle

A look back into the history of the Campbell River area

  • Sep. 24, 2015 1:00 p.m.

In an era when frontier photographers and cameras were rare, Henry Twidle had a passion for taking images of the life around him.

He created a photographic record of the Campbell River region, and in particular of Quadra Island that helps us to visualize the early years of settlement, and that adds richly to our knowledge of that history.

Twidle had immigrated to British Columbia from England in 1903 and arrived first in Vancouver, where he found work as a professional photographer.

He met his wife-to-be Agnes there and once they were married, the couple moved to the frontier community of Rock Bay on Vancouver Island’s east coast.  In Rock Bay Twidle, who had trained as a bookkeeper in England, worked as a timekeeper and store manager for BC Mills Timber and Trading Company, commonly known as Hastings Mill.

In 1910, the Twidles moved to Granite Bay on Quadra Island where they were to remain for 40 years.  Here, the couple operated the general store and hotel which they bought from Hosea Bull in 1911, and Henry became the postmaster and stipendiary magistrate.

Henry became a trustee of the first log school that opened in Granite Bay in 1912 and remained in that position until he left to retire in Brown’s Bay in 1950.

As a person of education, he was a contrast to the typical frontier resident of the time and was deemed all the more curious for his butterfly collection and photography hobby.  Close to home he captured everyday images in the portraits of neighbours and created a visual record of industrial activity like the Lucky Jim mine.

Twidle used a method for taking and developing his pictures that is known as the wet glass plate method.  He travelled about the coast in a small gasboat, and to employ this method, it meant that he would have to take a portable darkroom, glass plates and all the necessary chemicals with him.

Twidle took pictures of native residents, homesteaders, isolated settlements, logging scenes, fishing boats, steamships and spectacular scenery.

After Agnes’ death in 1951, Henry remained in Brown’s Bay for another four years, then moved to Campbell River to be closer to medical care.  He passed away in 1956.

After he died, vandals broke into his Brown’s Bay home and destroyed most of his negatives and camera equipment; however some were saved by close friend Milt Adams, whose widow later donated hundreds of his glass slides and an antique lantern projector to the Museum at Campbell River.

The Museum currently has a temporary exhibit showcasing Twidle’s work entitled Granite Bay: Through Twidle’s Lens that will be on display until Oct. 8.